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IHL unanimously votes to resume “traditional operations” this fall, Ole Miss intends to bring students back to campus

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Planning is underway to ensure safety for the communities.

University of Mississippi

Mississippi colleges and universities will resume “traditional operations” in fall of 2020, barring any national or state emergencies, the Board of Trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning voted on Thursday.

The IHL Board, which oversees Mississippi’s eight public colleges and universities, voted unanimously to pass this resolution and emphasizes that “providing a safe learning and living environment for the students it serves” and providing a safe work environment for staff is “paramount.”

“All of the universities under the governance of the board shall make plans to resume traditional operations on their campuses in the Fall of 2020 to include the offering of as many in-person classes as possible,” the resolution states.

Prior to this resolution, the University of Mississippi has planned to return students to campus and hold in-person instruction for the Fall 2020 semester, Chancellor Glenn Boyce announced in a letter to faculty, staff and students.

The University, which initially cancelled classes from March 16-20 and moved classes online for the remainder of the semester on March 12 in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, has since announced it will deliver all Summer terms remotely through online or alternative methods and canceled all in-person on-campus summer camps, conferences, events and other experiences through August 1.

For the school to bring students back to campus and resume in-person instruction, there will need to be new and unique measures in place to ensure that the safety, health and well-being of students, faculty, staff and the community at-large is the first priority. The Chancellor and his team are “making plans on exactly what this will look like,” Special Assistant to the Chancellor William Kneip told the Cup.

Ideas for public health precautions that could be implemented for campus life to resume include: smaller class sizes with regulated distance between students, single-person dorm rooms and a designated housing facility for students that may need to be quarantined, mandatory face coverings, antibody testing (should it be readily available), remote teaching, “grab-and-go” on-campus meal and physical distancing requirements. This likely doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what could be a very detailed and extreme list of necessary regulations and is only speculation until the Chancellor’s office releases an official declaration of how the Fall semester will proceed.

With Friday’s letter, Ole Miss joins Tennessee, LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M, Missouri, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, and Kentucky as the first 10 Southeastern Conference schools to announce such intentions. As of May 8, Florida, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Auburn are the only SEC institutions who have not come out with a similar announcement, though if Ole Miss and Alabama are planning to reopen, the assumption is that their in-state counterparts are not far behind.

There is a lot of momentum for college football and athletics to return in the fall and students returning to campus is the first domino. This, of course, is subject to change based on data, resurgence and a variety of uncontrollable factors, but it’s a step in the right direction. Should students return to Oxford and another COVID-19 outbreak occur, a worst-case scenario would mean shifting back to online classes as it has this spring.